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tv   Book Discussion on The Hour of Peril  CSPAN  March 9, 2014 9:45am-10:31am EDT

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[laughter] the second story, funny, more sentiment, and much to my liking though, the second story takes us to boston where doctor visits to became a u.s. citizen in 1968. in the books last chapter which is a conversation, twin mmi so, i raised the question of why he didn't change his impossibly difficult name at that time. i did change my first name can not my last name when i became a citizen a few years after that, for years after mckay said he was confident that in america people can become american without masking their ethnic identity. america is the only country where someone named zbigniew brzezinski can make a name for himself without changing his name. >> you can watch this and other programs on line at the tv.org. >> next on booktv, daniel
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stashower recalls the plot to assassinate abraham lincoln in figure 1861, prior to lincoln's and migration ceremony. the plot was discovered by detective allen pinkerton, was to be executed in baltimore as lincoln stopped in the city en route to washington, d.c. this is about 40 minutes. >> thank you. thank you for coming out. it's a real pleasure to be here in illinois, especially because this is really where the wheels of the story started turning, both figuratively and literally. the book is the star to a large extent of allen pinkerton, the famous detective of the 19th century, who got his start just about half hour to the north of europe in dundee illinois and it also features a lawyer by the name of abraham lincoln who i also understand came to
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prominence here in illinois. out to be the plot in a nutshell. the year is 1861. lincoln has been elected president and it turns out that the was a period in our nation's history when presidential elections had a divisive and polarizing effect on the population. very unlike the perfect harmony and stability of our present day. so over a period of 13 days as lincoln is making his way by train from his home in springfield, illinois, to washington, d.c. for his inauguration as president, the air is filled with rumors of an assassination plot. in maryland where is the train will pass below the mason-dixon line for the first time, there
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are rumors that he will be shot or he will be stabbed, or his train will be blown up at the whistle stop the parents in baltimore. allen pinkerton of the legendary pinkerton detective agency is on the scene. he's already there in baltimore, and she has a just under two weeks to uncover hard evidence of this looming plot before time runs out. what makes the situation even more difficult and more dangerous is that there is no good way to get from springfield to washington at this time. america's railroads are expanding at a fantastic rate, but there's no single direct railway line, no transcontinental railroad yet. the railway system, in 1861,
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looks as if you have taken a plate of spaghetti and thrown it at a map, and wherever it lands, there's an independent regional railway line. in all, lincoln took a route that zigzags and crisscrossed and doubled back on itself covering a distance of 2000 miles on 18 separate independent railroad lines, as opposed to a journey of a few hundred miles as the crow flies. and at each stop lincoln gets out of the train, gives a little speech, waves into the crowd, shakes hands. for him, this is the whole point. by the time lincoln sets off for washington, seven states have seceded from union, and lincoln hopes to use this train journey to give people the chance to
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hear him, see him, to listen to his ideas. he wants to pour oil on troubled waters, give people a chance to get to know him a little bit. and in the end he winds up getting over 100 speeches. he is trying to extend common words to the north, and offer an olive branch to the south. but baltimore is looming. three of these independent regional railway lines converge in baltimore and it creates a choke point for all passenger and freight traffic moving from north to south. you can't get to washington without passing through baltimore. and because the line doesn't go straight through, lincoln will have to get out of the train and wade through a heavy crowd, just
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as he has done at every other transfer point. only this time, it's in a slaveholding state and there are people in the crowd who have threatened to kill him. here's how allen pinkerton believed it would play out when lincoln arrived at baltimore's calvert street train station. and this is complete with a plot, sort of diversion to draw any police escort away from lincoln's side at the critical moment. pinkerton wrote, it has been fully determined that the assassination should take place at calvert street. when the train enters the depot, and mr. lincoln attempted to pass through the narrow passage leading to the street, a party already delegated were to engage in a conflict on the outside, and then the policeman were to rush away and quell the
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disturbance. at this moment, the police being entirely withdrawn, mr. lincoln would find himself surrounded by a dense, excited, and hostile crowd all hustling and jamming against him. and then the fatal blow was to be struck. many of you will be familiar with the baltimore plot as this episode came to be called. but very few know the story behind the story, and that story begins with allen pinkerton. pinkerton is a tough nut. he is hard to get to know. he is a scrappy, grizzled, quick to anger. he began his career in scotland. he got into trouble with the law in scotland. he came to america as a cooper, a barrel maker. and he moved here to illinois,
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and it looks like he's going to go on quietly making barrels for the rest of his life in dundee, illinois. and one day he is out cutting wood for barrel states and he comes across the remains of a campfire, something doesn't look right to him, and he can't understand what people were doing in this remote spot, why they would've been there in the middle of the night. he spends a couple of days investigating, he waits around to see what happens. one thing leads to another. he discovers this remote island is being used by a gang of counterfeiters. he comes back with the local sheriff. he leads a raid the rounds them all up. the next thing you know, pinkerton is alarming. and soon after that -- a law meant. he works his way through the ranks and he becomes something entirely new. a private detective, and he sets up this is for himself in
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chicago. and his logo is this girl stern, unblinking eye, glaring out over the words we never sleep. and soon his logo, this unblinking eye, brings a new phrase into the language, private eye. pinkerton was the first. america's first private eye. by no means the last the when we think of the pinkerton's as hard men with blazing guns and take this to you will remember the relentless posse of law meant chasing butch and sundance. paul newman said, can you do that? i can't do that. who are those guys? they are pinkerton. the guys shooting back at train robbers from inside the freight car. they are pinkerton. and the guys talking heads
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together at the strike at the steel mill, those are pinkerton, too. sad to say it and this last thing, the unio unionbusting, hs attached a great deal of infamy to the pinkertopinkerto n name, and a considerable amount of confusion about who allen pinkerton. had a guy come up to me at a pta meeting, all things good and he jabs his singer into my chest and he says, allen pinkerton smashed my grandfather over the head with a club at homestead, and put him in the hospital. now, are you going to write about that in your book, mr. author? well, two things. one, love it when people call me mr. author. bear that in mind for later. number two, the homestead strike of 1892 was a truly horrific
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episode. a clash between striking steelworkers and pinkerton man and homestead pennsylvania. it was a terrible, bloody episode with casualties and blame on both sides. but i can tell you for sure that allen pinkerton didn't smash anyone's grandfather over the head that day. i hear you ask, how can you be so sure? well, because he was dead. [laughter] he had died eight years earlier, and it has been my experience, dead men crack no schools. -- skulls. my point is, allen pinkerton's story has gotten tangled up over the years with the darker aspects of these agencies legacy. allen pinkerton, the founder of
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the agency, spent his youth marching for the rights of working in in his native scotland. and came under fire, literally, for doing so. allen pinkerton, founder of the agency, ran a station on the underground railroad here in illinois, helping fugitive slaves on their way north to freedom. he was a friend of john brown, the fire and brimstone abolitionist. even though the assistance he gave to brown in the days leading up to harpers ferry put him on the wrong side of the law. he was a law man by day, a lawbreaker by night. and believe me, i'm not putting him up for sainthood and i'm not looking to apologize for some of the terrible things he did and it happened on his watch, and especially later on. but there's a story here that never gets told, and it's the story of a barefoot cooper who
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becomes a world-famous detective and makes his bone protecting america's railroads. and his first, his biggest client is the illinois central railroad, and the illinois central also has a lawyer on retainer, and his name is abraham lincoln. and thereby hangs a tale. the bottom line is that lincoln and pinkerton come to know of each other on the way up. and 10 years on when lincoln is president-elect of the united states and he is being told that there are men waiting to kill him in baltimore, he trusts the pinkerton. he's going to listen to pinkerton. some of his advisers want him to respond with a crushing display of military force. one of them says, i'll get a
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squad of cavalry, and cut our way to washington, serve. this is the last thing that lincoln wants to do. he has been trying to avoid any show of military posture towards the south at this critical time. pinkertons plan, if successful, will sidestep the issue. pinkerton says, i will get you safely to washington. you will have to put yourself entirely in my hands. and in those of my most trusted operatives. and the most trusted operative as a contest not a pinkerton men, but a pinkerton woman and i love this part. one day five years earlier in 1856, pinkerton is sitting at his desk in chicago and there's
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a knock at the door and he looks up and there's a young woman standing there. and she says she introduces herself, her name is kate warren. she's a young widow, 22 or 23 years old and she says she's looking for work. pinkerton doesn't know quite what she means. .. he says, it is not the custom
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to employ women as detectives. how exactly do you propose to be of service? and she's ready for this. she says, a female detective may go and warm out the secrets in ways that are impossible for a male detective. a man may hide all traces of his guilt from his fellow man, but he will not hide it from his wife. and what she proposes to do is strike up useful friendships with the wives of these suspected criminals. get them to spill the beans, and then she will take that information back to pinkerton. and that's what she did, and much more besides, and on the night in question in the hour of
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peril, if you will, lincoln was accompanied not by a squad of cavalry, sir, but by a resourceful young woman who was posing as his sister, a traveling companion. but that was only part of impotence plan on that night. -- pinkertons plan. earlier one of pink and his men had insinuated himself into a meeting of the conspirators in baltimore at which secret ballots were to be drawn. ..
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each of whom believed he was the sole assassin, one of the better moves, six more waiting. one of them assert two straight the fatal blow. and as pinkerton explained, this was a good thought. it was audaciously simple and efficient. he said it was a capital plan and much better than the one which finally succeeded for years that her and destroying mr. lincoln life. well, it's a good plan and it needs a better plan if it's going to be foiled in pinkerton had one. pinkerton had a strategy that is many years of service as a
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railroad gtech is enabled him to devise and put into practice. for more than a week, lincoln had been tethered to a moment by moment timetable for speeches and reception. the plans of the conspirators have been made accordingly. they knew exactly where he would be at any given moment. anybody would. all you have to do is look in the newspaper and you would know where lincolnwood be at any given moment. and in pinkerton's view, the only way of supporting this plot was to get lincoln to breakaway from the well-publicized itinerary and proceed directly to washington ahead of schedule under the gtech is personal protection. if pinkerton could sneak the
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president elect through baltimore ahead of time, the assassins would be caught off guard. by the time they took their places for the schedule to rival of lincoln's train, lincoln had thought would already be safe in washington. but pinkerton mayo that what he was proposing was foolhardy and dangerous. even if lincoln made his move ahead of schedule, the route to washington but passed through baltimore in any case. there simply wasn't any feasible way of getting there. so if any hint that this change of plan get out, lincoln's position would be far more precarious. that is traveling openly and the rabid right friend and protector is, he would be alone,
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relatively exposed but only one or two man at his side. it's tempting to say that pinkerton was throwing a hail mary pass. it was really a quarterback sneak. if that works, he'll pick up the extra yardage, get the first down. if it doesn't work, you may lose your quarterback. this is where kate warned, the female detective has her moments of glory. on this particular night, it occurred to pinkerton if anyone was on the lookout for lincoln, or any unexpected movements coming ably fill the train stations and hotels were being watched. they would expect to be the familiar tall figure traveling in the company of a large group of 10. and not being the case, they would likely passover to get
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warm enough to this i who was busily taking arrangements for her ailing rather she insisted would retire immediately to his train compartment and was not to be disturbed on the journey. lincoln it seemed was charmed by a and we are told that he had tempting pc to say when he was introduced to kate warned him that i peered he supposed to have said i believe it is not hitherto been one of the perquisites of the president be to acquire in full bloom so charming and calm lashed a female relation. well, the lovely phrase they don't know if he actually said it, but it is recorded in the history books and i like to think so.
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as some of you will know, mine is not the first book ever to feature abraham lincoln. at the new ford jeter center in washington, there is a winding five-story tower of books all about lincoln 34 feet high. not only have there been acres of very excellent books written by anonymous scholars, but you could go the bridge from here to springfield and that to washington and home again with volumes written at a time. link nsa knew him books. and no two of them can quite agree on what happened in baltimore. sources conflict. historical agendas collide. nobody can even agree on what lincoln was wearing on his head on the night in question.
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so the challenge of doing this book as well as the fun part was to try to a pack some of that baggage, to untangle the christ buyers, to the past the highly charged politics of the moment and try to get to what really happened. well, i hear you ask, why should they be any controversy about it? because at the critical moment of the story, february 22nd, 1861, there were two men that link inside. one to his right and one to his last in these two men seem to hate each other with a boiling passion. one of them as pinkerton. the other was ward lehman, lincoln's friend and self-appointed bodyguard.
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later on when the feud between the two of them had taken on real heat, lehman accused pinkerton of having fabricated the entire episode in baltimore to burnish his own reputation. most of the controversy about what happened in baltimore begins they are. and because pinkerton's operation was deeply flawed, there is much to criticize. a great deal of the information that handkerchief waved them all tomorrow is that it barrooms and in and other places where the telling of falsehoods and exaggerations were not in no. so if you're looking to pick apart the information he had gathered in the days leading up to this event, it wasn't hard to do so. but it's ridiculous to say as many others afterwards did that
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there was no danger of any kind in baltimore. of course there is danger. of course there is danger when abraham lincoln, the abolitionist minded president elect of the united states, the man who set a house divided against itself cannot stand set foot in a slaveholding state for the first time. of course the particulars of the threat are legitimate subject for debate. but the existence of a threat beyond dispute is that newspaper editor, worse creely, said at the time, there was 40 times the reason for shooting him in 1861 then there was than 65. at least 40 times as many content on killing him for having him killed. greeley was sitting behind the
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lincoln when he delivered his first natural address. he was expected at a moment to your lincoln's words arrested at the crack of a rifle. he said no shop has been fired however for his hour had not yet come. as for pinkerton, he came to regard this episode is the highlight of his career, even if as he freely at me to william herndon, lincoln's law partner turned biographer, that he had come upon the whole thing by lucky chance. he said from my report to see how accidentally i discovered a plot that i was looking for nothing of the kind and had certainly not the slightest idea of it but on his tombstone here and they'll annoy, one finds the following inscription.
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in the hour of the nation's peril, he conducted in faithfully through the ranks of treason to the scene of his first inauguration as president. i am guessing that many people who come to this story will know that abraham lincoln survived to become president of the united states and soon afterwards the nation was plunged into civil war. i mean, why tell the story? white now? well, there are three reasons. one, the barnburner of the story reads like one of the yellow but adventure novels of the day that pinkerton himself love to read. he's got conspirators to give blood does at midnight. detect is jumping off of trains. you got the president elect of the united states stealing
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through town in disguise pass the seat of danger as pinkerton called it, under the stable wing of night. two, the civil war is full of moments for the whole shooting match came down to a matter of inches. pickett's charge. there stands jackson like a stone wall, rally he had virginians. this was one of those moments. the final reason is this and what not i put on my reading glasses and read a short passage in the clear and pleasing baritone. the events of 1861 continue to capture attention not only for the drama of the plot and its protection, but also because lincoln's handling of the crisis and its fallout with mark a
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faithful early test of his presidency which many dark consequences. the stakes were enormous. had mr. lincoln fallen at that time wrote pinkerton? it is frightful to think with the consequent newsnight has been. there is no question that pinkerton's methods are high-handed and at times unlawful. many of the criticisms 261 would not be expressed or literature that. he now understood there are dangers to be apprehended when a president does freely through a vast crowd arrived and opened commands. this apprehension did not exist at the start of the lincoln presidency. as when new york is a productive at the time, the fascination is
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not congenial to the american there. perhaps not, but it was soon become all too real events about to relate it here have been for long-term shrouded in shrouded in a veil of mystery. published at the end of the five, on monday where he plot existed at this time to assassinate the product upon his contemplative journey to the capital, but if you have any knowledge of the mode by which they can piercy was detect good and means employed to prevent the accomplishment of the murderous design. strangely, these words are as true today as they were convergence time and the detective is already serving a can tide of criticism when he wrote on. the distinguished historian, john thomas schaller chronicling
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the history of the state of maryland in 1879 insisted that pinkerton's action had an insult to the fair fame of one of the chief cities of the country and express the hope that the matter would soon be saddled once and for all. i myself am a resident of maryland and i miss partial to black eyed seasons as the next man. at every move of 150 years, however, i believe it's possible to treat this episode without undue risk. it bears noting however that today's day maryland by maryland makes reference to the desperate feel in the tyrants chain of lincoln and his kind in a spirited rallying cry spurns
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northerns from link and would likely have been amused. fellow citizens blithely declared in the early years of this president be, we cannot escape history. i thank you very much. i would be delighted to take any questions that you have. thank you. [applause] [inaudible] >> sure, yeah. i have to say that original documents was the fun of it. the pinkerton archive such as it is, but which is destroyed and the chicago fire now resides in the congress and was also used so and it was terrifically interesting to look through newspapers that the bad, many of which were's been exactly the opposite things they had set the
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previous day were being said at the same time another newspapers. a very, very interesting time. i [inaudible] beanbag yet, the question is he was criticized at the time. who is more than criticize. his advisers said that he would be ridiculed and accuse and he was. the newspapers there are caricatures showing him sort of thing ringlets flamethrowers the capital but a frightened schoolgirl. there is one showing him crouching in a freight car, hissing at the site of a cat. all kinds of things. the "baltimore sun" was absolutely furious at this perceived slight and wrote that
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if this flight cannot be reasonably explained, the citizens of maryland will take a number h. and their exit from the union will be assured. that was the problem. maryland was seriously ticked off and when she needed maryland to stay in the union. if maryland went confederate, washington would be hemmed in by confederate territory and it seems likely that the federal capital and have to remove itself to philadelphia or new york. the stakes were huge. anyone else? on the imac >> is mary todd lincoln on the train? was she a danger as well? >> is one of the very interesting things about this story. was mary todd lincoln on the train? among the many reasons lincoln
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was criticized for what are fallen in with pinkerton's plan that night, his family was on the train with them and their thinking was quite reasonably, if you were in so much danger, why did you leave your wife and children on the train to face these dangers that you would not? quoting the "baltimore sun," and they spoke admiringly is mary todd lincoln coming through town is scheduled. so there has to be some plug in the white house after all, even if it is under a broad base. it was a fair criticism. the truth is there's evidence to suggest the superintendent of police in baltimore who came under a great deal of criticism from pinkerton had a plan to take the lincoln family off the
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train before it got to baltimore. how then to lunch at the home of a prominent citizen of baltimore and take them to the train -- the second train that carried them the rest of the way to washington, which might've sidestepped the issue is effectively as pinkerton planted. it is quite possible she was in on the train anymore than he was. but the perception that lincoln had left his family to face the perils that he himself would not also calling to him like glue. anyone else? >> first, with specific pain kicks off where you about this event that made you say i want
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to spend the time researching what happened here and with that process to what is dirty happening for your next book? how do you decide what you'll pick for an area to explore? >> well, thank you for that. for me, it was as true for me today as lincoln's time but all roads lead to baltimore. i have always been interested in the subject. the official answer, and it's true, when i first got out of grad school, i was working at time life books and the series they had called the civil war. the joke around the office was it took us longer to do the serious than it took us to fight the civil war. it was there i met some of the reason this story for the first time including colonel ellsworth who is that inside through the
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whole journey and later became unnecessary file at the state the were and also pinkerton's prized operative, timothy webster, who was hanged early in the war as a union spy in richmond. i began to get the sentiment there. i'm also a lifelong sherlock holmes fan and have written early and often about conan doyle and sherlock holmes and the value of fear, one of the novels about sherlock holmes. there are pinkerton men based on the mauling the players that we learned a few pinkerton man has deepened his business, we are all destroyed. if i'm honest, my first exposure to it within a friends treehouse in cleveland in 1971. a stack of books that belong to
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one of his uncles. it was called true comics and i told the story of this plot. they are it is. it is not a great telling of this story. there was one line i being that when we need men such as yourself, mr. pinkerton, not the crime seems to be on the increase. it got the job done. the other reagan in the treehouse that they involved the big tad, i think i made the right choice in terms of what to write a book about. but to answer your question of how one picks a book ptolemaic, strange to say it could be a serendipitous that that, but you
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have to dig deeply enough to make sure that the bones of the story are dared, that it's going to support the full telling of the story and that's the part i love. i like to be up to my neck in the research. thank you. anyone else? addie imac >> i have heard say this book has been nominated for an edgar award in an agatha award recently. >> i'm sorry -- yes, it has. i am deeply flattered by that. i thank you. the check is in the mail. if there are no other questions, are there any other questions? i thank you for your kind attention and i will be happy to talk with you, sign your copies
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and continue on this snowy night. thank you for coming. [applause] imac >> lincoln was a security nightmare. it went against his instincts to take protect get measures, which drove his friends and protect there is crazy. [inaudible] if anyone has a book to be signed. >> , not.
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[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> the three elements of the triple packager first a sense of exception malady and you can get it from lots of different sources, but it's just a feeling you are special and destined for special things. the second element is almost seemingly at the opposite and that is a dash of insecurity to offset that exception malady. that is a feeling you haven't quite done enough yet. you're not quite good enough yet. and a third element is impulse
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control. discipline and the ability to persevere and resist temptation. >> individuals who have these qualities grow up in america, they can predict tabouli second-generation to have an interesting creative destruction relationship between their culture and american culture such the second generation kids in immigrant communities start typically looking back at their parents and grandparents generation and saying we don't want to do successfully told us to. we are not interested in those jobs you said were the only one and instead make decisions to be a standup comic or artist or something like that. the same qualities can help them do that achieve different kinds of goals. the triple package tonight at 9:00 on afterwards, part of booktv on c-span2.
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.. it's with great pleasure i get to welcome general peter mansoor, author of "surge" which would be one of the key books about the iraq war. deep, deep research and, of course, general mansoor was so
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